Wall Street trading got off to a mixed start on Friday despite signs of progress in Sino-US trade relations, but the S&P 500 appeared to be trying to break above a key level of technical resistance, possibly helped by the retreat in expectations for further policy tightening by the country's central bank.
At 1515 GMT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 0.13% weaker at 25,677.78, while the S&P 500 was trading 0.16% higher at 2,813.07 – and making another attempt at moving past resistance at 2,815 – while the Nasdaq was up 0.52% at 7,670.33.

The Dow opened 32 points lower even as fresh optimism about trade relations between the US and China seemed to boost the mood across the S&P 500 and Nasdaq following a report that the two were making progress.

According to news agency Xinhua, Chinese Vice Premier Liu, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer made “further substantive progress” on trade talks in a telephone conversation on Thursday.

Investors also digested comments from Donald Trump at an event at the White House on Thursday, during which he said: “Probably one way or the other we're going to know over the next three or four weeks.” He added that China had been “very responsible and very reasonable”.

News that China had passed a new foreign investment law aimed at levelling the domestic playing field for overseas investors was also lifting sentiment. The new law, which will come into effect in January 2020, will address concerns from foreign investors such as unfair treatment in terms of market access and government procurement.

On the corporate front, retailer Kirkland saw its shares drop 9,70% in early trade as its fourth-quarter profit and guidance missed analysts' expectations, whiles shares in electric car maker Tesla were 4.10% lower at the bell after the company unveiled a new electric crossover SUV, the Model Y, at an event at its design studio on Thursday evening.

Elsewhere, Newell Brands stocks dipped 1.65% after announcing the retirement of its chief executive officer late on Thursday.

On the macro front, consumer sentiment in the US improved in March, according to a preliminary reading from the University of Michigan.

The consumer sentiment index rose to 97.8 this month from 93.8 in February, but was down from a reading of 101.4 last March.

Meanwhile, the current economic conditions index increased to 111.2 in March from 108.5 the month before, but came in below March 2017's reading of 121.2.

The index of consumer expectations printed at 89.2 this month from 84.4 in February and 88.8 in March last year.

Survey of Consumers chief economist Richard Curtin said the increase in the index was entirely due to households with incomes in the bottom two-thirds of the distribution, whose sentiment rose to 97.4 from 90.0 in February.

Elsewhere, US industrial production eked out just a small gain last month, with output in manufacturing hit by a slide in business equipment.

According to the Department of Commerce, industrial production in the States edged up in February at a 0.1% month-on-month pace, with revisions to data for October and January largely offsetting each other.

In comparison to one year ago, production was 3.5% higher.

Economists had anticipated a 0.3% increase in industrial production versus January.

Lastly, job vacancies grew to a fresh high of 7.6m in January as employers continue to seek qualified applicants to fill positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' newest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

The January survey was expected to come in at 7.31m openings, just ahead of December's 7.34m reading.

To take note of, according to the CME's Fed Watch tool, as of 1507 GMT Fed funds futures were predicting just a 69.0% probability of another 25 basis point hike in official short-term interest rates by the Federal Reserve by the 11 December FOMC meeting.

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